Modest Marvels: Australian Architect Crafts Regional Homes


Sensational architecture makes headlines as if its architects were one-man shows, when they are more frequently the the front man for a much larger operation. Though he has won awards including the Pritzker Prize and AIA Gold Metal, Glenn Murcutt spends his time designing area-appropriate buildings to suit local needs rather than seeking out the spotlight.

He has no signature style as some starchitects do, but there are common themes to his work: simplicity, efficiency, and a respect for the beauty and primacy of the natural environments in which his works are to be built.

His pragmatic approach leads to the frequent use of simple and durable materials like corrugated metal, used in rainwater catchment barrels, on roofs and as siding (in addition to glass, wood, stone and brick as appropriate). Single-story, open-air dwellings, often on stilts, also reflect his region of practice: mainly Australia, with hot weather but also prone to floods in places.

Born in London and raised in New Guinea, taught of Henry David Thoreau as well as Mies van der Rohe, his architecture reflects modern sensibilities and an appreciate for simple living with the pragmatic differences between geographical regions.

If his life story and work has a message, perhaps it is this: don’t lose track of what you want to do or what you are good at doing … his work has become famous, certainly, but he remains a single-architect firm and sticks to regions he understands and can best design for (all the while with a never-ending list of clients wanting him to work for them).

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